Mazda is not a manufacturer that is regularly associated with producing classic cars. They produce competent, well built cars for the general populace. However occasionally they produce something special. The rotary vehicles, well up to the last few, some earlier models and perhaps what will become the most lasting classic the MX5.
First released in 1989 the MX5 adhered to the principles of the light weight, well balanced simple sport car from an earlier era. It was reminiscent of the British sports cars of the 1950s & ’60s, such as the Triumph Spitfire, Austin-Healey 100, MG MGA, and particularly the Lotus Elan.
It became instantly popular. It wasn’t the fastest, or best handling, it certainly didn’t win stop light derbies, however when pushed on a twisty road there were few that could debate the dynamism and delight that it provided. It was the personification of a balanced sports car.
Fast forward through to 2017 and about a million cars later, Mazda has introduced the MX5 RF GT version. It could be described as the pinnacle of the development of the classic MX5.
Let me say that I have always been a fan of the MX5, having driven many over the years. However I was always prevented from buying one for one simple reason. No not being married, more like the fact that I was too tall, with long legs, to fit into it. This problem has only been exaggerated over the years with the lithe lean figure giving way to now being larger than the average bear.
Despite this I was determined to enjoy my time with the RF GT. It alas proved to be an almost fruitless and a very frustrating exercise. I managed to squeeze a few drives in it, and the enjoyment, albeit squashed, was palpable.
Nobuhiro Yamamoto Mazda MX-5 Ambassador has said “Having an MX-5 makes life richer and more fun”. Really you don’t need to read more than that.
There are very few things in life that compare to, let alone exceed, the pleasure that you can get from taking a drive through a twisty mountain road, or a cruise up the beaches on a sunny spring day, in an open top convertible.
Any niggles with the vehicle totally disappear with that feeling of freedom that can only be achieved with the top down. Mix in with that the subtle yet crisp exhaust note and someone to share it with and you have the recipe for the perfect day.
There are few better examples of the open top experience than the Mazda MX5 RF GT, especially ones that are easily affordable. The RF GT also overcomes one very key weakness of the MX5, which is the deterioration of the soft top over time. The retractable hard top provides the benefit of both worlds.
Yes it is a complicated piece of engineering, which is exactly why I am happy that a manufacturer like Mazda is making it. Their commitment to quality fit and finish allows me the confidence to enjoy the engineering, rather than worry about whether it will work all the time, unlike some others!
The fully automated hardtop, which is made up of four parts including the front, middle and rear roof, as well as a back window glass panel, fully retracts into the boot of the MX-5 with minimal impact to storage space. This all happens in about 13 seconds but you need to be driving at less than 10kmh to operate. My advice is to stop and do it.
The launch of the RF GT allowed Mazda the opportunity to add a few things. These include: further standard safety equipment, including Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA). Not confined to the RF, this equipment is also available across the entire Mazda MX-5 range. The high grade RF GT also gets the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) – LED headlights that swivel up to 15 degrees to reveal more of a road’s corner.
The MX-5 RF grade includes 17 inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, Bluetooth, MZD Connect – which is also now standard on all grades – and Satellite Navigation, while the high grade MX-5 RF GT comes with either a black or tan leather interior trim, power mirrors, climate control air conditioning and heated seats. There is also an additional GT option that features a black-painted roof and stylish Nappa leather interior trim.
For those readers that like the figures the MX5 RF GT is as follows.
Mazda MX-5 RF is powered by the SKYACTIV-G 2.0L petrol engine that boasts 118kW @ 6000rpm of power and 200Nm @ 4600rpm of torque, and offers a choice of either a 6-speed SKYACTIV-MT manual or 6-speed auto transmission. 0-100KMH and top speeds are irrelevant for the MX5 RF GT simply for all the reasons I have been talking about.
Yes the engine is responsive, the Mazda is rear wheel drive as it should be, the steering is superbly weighted and provides direct feedback, the brakes more than effective, the transmission is slick and almost perfectly matched to the engine and the vehicle has a near 50/50 weight balance. These things we take for granted with a MX5!
The Mazda MX5 RF GT driving experience has been designed on the Japanese principle of Jinba Ittai – the Japanese philosophy of ‘horse and rider as one’. Underneath it is full of the modern luxuries and safety features we have all come to expect from our cars. However the fundamental core of the MX5 RF GT is that it is a hell of a lot of FUN to drive.
What is good?
- Build Quality
- Value for money
- Driving experience
What is not so good?
- NOT good for tall or larger drivers
- Restricted space
- Refer to the first point
What are the alternatives?
Abarth 124 Spider
Toyota 86 GT
BMW 2 series Convertible
Model: Mazda MX5 RF GT
Model Price: $50,129 RDAP
Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.0L
Drivetrain: 6 Speed MT
Power: 118kW @6000rpm
Torque: 200Nm @ 4600 rpm
Safety: 5 Star ANCAP
CO2 Emissions: TBA g/km
Economy: (ADR comb) 7.0 L/100km
0 – 100Kmh: TBA
Top Speed: TBA
Warranty 3yr/unlimited km with full roadside assist
Overall AnyAuto Rating 87/100
Behind the Wheel 8
Ride & Handling 9
Fit for Purpose 10
Fun Factor 10
Street Cred 9
Value for Money 9